An interview with Brian Canham by Jason
On Saturday 29th April, 2006 I finally interviewed Brian Canham of my favourite Australian band Pseudo Echo. Pseudo Echo got their big break in 1983 appearing on Countdown performing a demo version of "Listening". "Listening" ended up going Top Ten in Australia and they released their amazing debut album, "Autumnal Park" in 1984 with another hit "A Beat for You". Other fabulous singles included "Dancing until Midnight" and "Stranger in Me".
In 1985 the album "Love an Adventure" spawned the hits "Don't Go", "Love an Adventure" and "Living In a Dream". In 1986 came the massive hit and cover "Funky Town" originally recorded by Lipps Inc. "Funky Town" was not only a hit in Australia but also went Top Ten in the US and UK.
By the end of the 80s the release of "Race" saw a big change of direction as Pseudo Echo turned into a rock band. Pseudo Echo will always be known for their brilliant, catchy and fantastic synth pop and Australia's pioneering New Romantic bands. Who took a risk and were creative in the early 80s Australian music scene.
This is Part Two of the interview. Thanks so much Brian for this interview again!
Brian: Brian cracks up laughing
Jason: And Pseudo Echo as a band also won an award. Was this exciting and were you thrilled?
Brian: Yeah it was!
Jason: And didn't you win over Michael Hutchence by memory?
Brian: I did, oh poor Michael I love him
Jason: I love him too, he is amazing
Brian: He was so cool. He made me feel like an absolute klutz, he was so cool
Brian: Honestly, if you ever felt slightly cool and you met Michael Hutchence, you just realised how cool you were not. He was just the coolest guy ever! When I won that award, I remember the best man to my wedding - who was our manager, he was just before Wheatley - he kept saying to me "Mate, you're the most popular guy in the country" or something like that, and I was like "For god sake Shut Up, Stop it"! And then we were just thinking we were God and going out clubbing and saying "Oh look he let us in and you know". And we ended up at this club that was this really legendary club in Sydney called "Benny's"
Brian: It was this sleazy old you know, old rock stars went there to pick up. It was seriously just full of old sleazy rock stars and whoever was in town would be there, it wasn't a dance club it was more like a bar. And you know, all the INXS guys used to always go there and hanging out and rubbing elbows with everyone and that night we went back to Benny's after the party and Michael was there. I didn't really know Michael that well, I knew all the other guys in the band pretty well. I knew Andrew really well and Kirk I know really well too, I went to school with his wife and his wife's best friend
Jason: Oh really
Brian: So I hardly knew Michael, but he was a really nice guy and there was some photographer and journo there carrying on and said "Oh can we get a picture of you know, the reigning star".
Jason: Oh no, in front of Michael!
Brian: You know, like the new and the old, sort of.
Brian: And Michael's just like... He just turned around and looked at me and he goes "It's yours, take it, good luck!". Laughs!!! And he was just... he was really, really graceful and very cool. But you know he was older, so he didn't really care!
Jason: But obviously you were happy about that night and how all went
Brian: Oh I was really happy, I didn't actually believe it and I never really agreed with it but it was just timing wasn't it. And getting the band one was good to though we never really got that award. We don't know where that ended up; I still have my one in the studio.
Jason: So you never got the band one?
Brian: No, the band one was in the office with the management for a while then we split and we never saw it again
Jason: Fair Enough!... Now obviously when you look at a video like "Living in a Dream" you went from the video of "Love an Adventure" to "Living in a Dream" and you could tell by the video of "Living in a Dream" that the look was totally changing
Brian: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Jason: And then you went to Funky Town and you ended up just wearing just a T-Shirt with jeans and it was kind of like okay where is this going. But then when 1988/89 arrived, being a huge fan of Pseudo Echo myself I remember watching The Factory and they said here's Pseudo Echo. I was of course freaking out and all excited as it had been over a year and a half since you guys had released anything. And I remember hearing this cock rock guitar solo which was the intro of "Fooled Again" and seeing stone wash tight jeans and really long hair and leather. I have two questions regarding this, was this change a Vince Leigh idea and also how did you think Pseudo Echo fans that you guys had would react to this totally new Pseudo Echo?
Brian: Well at that point of our career we were screwed either way I think
Jason: Because music had so changed, yes?
Brian: There was no way around it. We could either stay as Pseudo Echo and get called a bunch of old fuddy duddys and dags and poofs and it's all over and you guys are dated. It wasn't going to happen, that music was so dead in the water in Australia. You've got to remember, we in this country have the smallest focus on music, it's only even in the last decade that it's slightly broadened. But it's always been a fine line of what's in and what's out. So we were screwed, unless we moved to the UK. That's probably in hindsight what we should have done, but we're all mummies' boys and we had family here. And not at all was it a Vince Leigh thing, if anything it was probably my idea, it was once again management. You know, Glen Wheatley would be like "Oh have you seen this band Bon Jovi"... And what was the black band who did "Walk This Way"
Jason: Oh Areosmith with Run DMC
Brian: Yeah, Run DMC. You know, that was sort of getting a bit rock, tongue in cheek but still rock and Aerosmith had a bit of a comeback.
Jason: Well as far as I am concerned 1986 onwards was so losing it and it was shocking.
Brian: Oh, yeah. Shocking. I think 1987/88 was just the worst part of music
Jason: Oh yes, I think so too
Brian: It was just music in confusion as to what's in and what's out.
Jason: So how did you guys as a band agree on this new direction?
Brian: Well Pierre and James really just followed and that's the problem. There was never a real a natural progression so it always looked completely contrived. Because one of us would do something so the others would go "Oh, that's what we've got to follow". So they would all wear bandanas and they would all cut off their sleeves and they always would take everything to the extreme.
Jason: But I guess up to a point, that is what you do when you are changing image and music.
Brian: Oh, but it was just so full on. I mean James never knew when to quit with image, I mean his hair got bigger in the 80s and it got bigger and bigger.
Jason: Oh see I always loved that about James
Brian: I mean as soon as we got a bit on the rock tip it wasn't just like I will switch a little bit
Jason: So James was into doing the rock thing?
Brian: Oh yeah, that was partially why the band broke up. Because by the third album Vince had joined and then the two Leighs were starting to kind of like "oh let's write some songs" and then they got their other brother who wasn't even in the band
Jason: Yes, the one from Dear Enemy
Brian: Oh he might have been. Gerry
Jason: Yeah Gerry
Brian: And he was always a bit weird with me and always resented me and everything. He had a weird problem with me always - even to this day he still does. So the three Leigh brothers started writing songs presenting them to me or not even to me, to the record company.
Jason: I was thinking though the rock thing was back in fashion in the late 80s a lot of dance music was in then and I would have thought you may have gone in that direction?
Brian: I think when we did Race, the original interpretation that Julian Mendelson and I did. It was probably closer to something like Loverboy meets ZZ Top meets Frankie Goes to Hollywood. So it was king of like Funky Town still
Jason: Okay so it had more edge but still had some link to Pseudo Echo sound wise
Brian: But the thing with record companies is that they want to remix it and fix it. And they just stuffed it all up! You know, they took out everything and they just made it really bland and rock. And the sound of it is such an inferior mix, I mean Julian and I were just horrified. Because we mixed the version that never saw the light of day and we don't even know where it is till this day. It was pretty good as it was more like Pseudo's but just the mix in itself made it sound so not Pseudo Echo, it's like with the reverbs they used and the types of effects and everything was just pure bland rock and not Pseudo Echo. We didn't do that, ours sounded lush. It was rock but it sounded lush and had a techno vibe.
Jason: One of the only songs I really like on the album which I think is great would be "Over Tomorrow".
Brian: Yeah, that's a great song.
Jason: I thought that was really cool and I think your vocals on it were really good too.
Brian: Yeah, it's a bit out of my range but yeah. At least that song suited me a bit where as a song like "Fooled Again" I hated that stuff!
Jason: And the funny video in the car with all the fans
Brian: Oh, fancy doing that. At that point I basically called it a day and I said I'm not doing this anymore, see ya. I just wish I had more confidence back then in the studio and I would have made a record of Pseudo on my own.
Jason: In the case of Pierre, was he also wanting to break up the band?
Brian: No not at all
Jason: So it was basically your primary decision?
Brian: It was my call, yeah
Jason: I have to say I am glad you guys called it a day because another heavy metal album would have really destroyed the Pseudo Echo legacy.
Brian: We actually still had another album deal. I couldn't believe it as not many bands have that much loyalty from a record company.
Brian: I mean the album did okay but it was pitiful sales. But EMI said well we will take the option for another album which is just miraculous. But we were all so up our own ass about how successful we had been I think we all just thought we can do that again later on when we're ready.
Jason: I can kind of see that maybe you and Anthony Agirio were probably the centre of what the music should be and the real passion behind it and how you were going to sound and the real creative ones.
Brian: Yeah, definitely. Yeah that point where we split was basically due to the fact that the Leigh brothers were trying to push to many of their songs. And I wasn't happy about it as I didn't like the lyric content and I didn't like the way they rhymed and I didn't like the way the melodies jumped around. It wasn't me, so that really stuffed up the whole thing about that third album, and then when they went and had a meeting I was sort of border. I wanted to call it a day and I wanted to get into production and I had enough of being a rock star but I also think I was the one with the sensible head always because everyone was going "Oh, whatever another album, who cares". But I thought "hmm, it's probably a thing we should not overlook too hastily", but the Leigh brothers were so confident about the next project they were going to do. They said "we're not going to take the next album project and we are going to do our own thing".
Jason: What Vertigo? That was quite a while after
Brian: Yeah but there was another band in between
Jason: But the Vertigo thing, that was still rather synthy though
Brian: Yeah it went back. Yeah that period Pierre was hell bent on continuing and he was very upset, as the band was his life and all that.
Jason: Well since 1997 Pseudo Echo have basically been performing again around Australia, how did that all come to light?
Brian: That was just because of this guy wanting us to do a gig at Retro in Sydney. It was just a one off and he just offered us good money and I thought it might be fun because all the 80s stuff was coming back in again and it could be a bit of a boost for the ego. And I really needed that as I was kind of losing a lot of confidence, and it's just being in the background all the time. You've got to remember you get slapped around in the background, you know you produce an album for a band and no one pats you on the back. They just go, oh you got a lucky break there just like with the whole Starfish thing and that. I got so underplayed about what I did but you know you've got to take it like that.
Jason: But Chocolate Starfish were pretty successful in the early 90s
Brian: Oh it was huge and it was successful but for me as a producer it's all about the rock stars, so you do lose a lot of your confidence.
Jason: Did you enjoy doing the Brill project?
Brian: Yeah that was very indulgent
Jason: I loved your cover of "Ebony Eyes" with Brill
Brian: Yeah it was good. That was just me being indulgent finding another spin and doing something we thought we could do and having fun with it. It was never meant to set the world on fire.
Jason: And in the year 2000 "Teleporter" came out and there were 4 new singles except I suppose "I Hope I Go to Heaven" was written and performed in the 80'.
Jason: But that was a very good thing for us fans!
Brian: Oh okay
Jason: It was like YAY, new songs and it was Pseudo Echo sounding like the Pseudo Echo sound I fell in love with as a kid.
Brian: It was a pity it wasn't on a bigger label, they were absolute idiots those guys. They were just a disaster from day one.
Jason: When I heard "Teleporter" it was just all about "Lesson in Love". It rocked my world.
Brian: Yeah same
Jason: It's a great song!
Brian: The chorus, maybe the Motown beat could have been pissed off. That's probably the only thing I regret.
Jason: Very nice intro though
Brian: Yeah I love it; it's totally me in 80s. That dark sound, yeah that whole thing with the melody, the message and the lyrics in it. That's probably my favourite song I've ever written almost. I can remember writing it while I was away on holidays with my family and I was just obsessed about it.
Jason: I liked "1985" as well
Brian: Yeah, I liked that one too
Jason: And "The Future" was very um...
Brian: Well that's a bit kitsch
Jason: Yeah, I thought it was a bit Regurgitator
Brian: Yeah, look I was really into "Polyester Girl"
Jason: Oh, Regurgitator's "Unit" was one album I played everyday!
Brian: When I heard "Polyester Girl" I went "hmmm... I should have written that song". I think it was a cross between "Polyester Girl" and there was another song, you know Kaftwerky sort of, there was a couple of other ones.
Jason: Around that period of 2000, why oh why were those new tracks never performed live. Was it because it was mainly set around a nostalgia thing as I remember going to every gig waiting for "Lesson In Love".
Brian: Yeah we never did "Lesson In Love".
Jason: You did "I Hope I Go To Heaven"
Brian: Yeah we did that. That was okay, it went okay and we once did "Suddenly Silently" but that got taken off the album.
Jason: What's "Suddenly Silently"?
Brian: "Suddenly Silently" was a song I had a hit with Origin, the girl sung it. Matilda White was the singer of "Origin".
Jason: Hmmm, that song sounds familiar to me
Brian: It was really big, you would know it. It was around 2000. It had massive airplay and high rotation everyday. And it sold really well and went really well for us and that was our new thing Origin. It was Myself, Ben and Matilda and that song was on "Teleporter" and right at the last minute I took it off
Jason: With you guys doing it?
Brian: With me singing, yeah. Which is a cool version of it. I should get you a copy. There's a new version now, I'm trying to find the original copy which is challenging. But I think I've got it still, because I did a remix under another name and that became a hipper version and we kept messing with it. It sort of sounds like "Lesson In Love" and it's got a real Depeche Mode vibe about it which is quite epic and dark and it's got that typical Pseudo's sound.
Jason: So is there any chance that you will be doing more as far as releasing new material under Pseudo Echo or is it pretty much just doing gigs?
Brian: You know, I was really just considering this the other day
Jason: Because I think it could work!
Brian: Yeah, look it's a hard one.
Jason: Please do it! Anthony Agirio would never agree to do drums at a Pseudo gig again would he?
Brian: He possibly might, he went through a stage where he hated us and just despised us all and then as he got older he must have realized what we did was what we did and we achieved things and that's business. I bumped into him at a studio about 3 years ago and it was great. It was happy and we were friends and it was really nice, he does his thing now and we do our thing, you know.
Jason: With James Leigh recently doing some gigs with you guys did you approach him to do it?
Brian: Yeah I just called him up, because there was a bit of water under the bridge. There were a few fragile moments there. Because with "Idols of the 80s", we didn't really want it to be all about Pseudo Echo.
Jason: Was it all your idea to do the Idols of the 80s?
Brian: It was, yes. So yeah James obviously did the keyboards then jumped on the bass synth. Ben hates playing the bass synth, he says it's the most boring gig ever. I mean its stupid having Ben playing keyboards and James playing bass. But James is flawless; he's such a great player.
Jason: Now late last year the immaculate "Autumnal Park" and "The Demo Sessions 301" plus the live "Autumnal Park" were released on CD through the American company Almacantar Records. Was that your idea?
Brian: Yeah, it was just a one man show and just demand.
Jason: Because "Almacantar" has also released other 80s Australian bands on CD like Geisha and other things.
Brian: Yeah, he's kind of a bit of an obsessive 80s fan.
Jason: Yeah, sounds like me to a tea! The thing which I like is the fact that he is releasing a lot of Australian bands on CD. Because the thing that is very annoying about Australia is they don't appreciate their music history the way that the UK does.
Brian: No, they don't, yeah.
Jason: So with "The 301 Demo Sessions" involving the demos, what was to be on it and the art work. Was that all your idea?
Brian: Yeah, all my stuff.
Jason: And are they all the demos you have, or do you have any left overs?
Brian: There might be a couple more. Is there a song called "Painted Faces" on there?
Jason: No, that sounds great!
Brian: Yeah there's two songs Glen has and he runs "Dirt Cheap" that's his company. He used to be a shop owner in the 80s and really support our band and do all the in stores then and he's a real fan. And he said you left off this and that, but there was this really cool song and it was called "What You're Dreaming" and I remember when that band Basement Jaxx did that track "Where's Your Head At".
Jason: Yes, and they sampled Gary Numan in that track
Brian: Well that sounds like the song that we had because it was that riff. We probably ripped it off Gary Numan too actually.
Jason: Why didn't that track make the CD?
Brian: I mustn't of had the demo anymore. We mustn't of demoded it for the album. Basically the majority of those songs are demos for Autumnal Park during the session. That's why it's called "The 301 Sessions". Now it's a bit confusing because people will think there's 301 songs on there maybe!
Jason: I have to say when I hear "Good Times" I heard early Simple Minds all over it like "Love Song".
Brian: That was a song we jammed with James in the original audition that he auditioned for.
Jason: James Leigh?
Jason: So this was after "Autumnal Park" was released?
Brian: That song is, yes.
Brian: Oh hang on, no you're right. I'm getting my eras mixed up here. No, but it was! Because it didn't make the album, but when James came to audition for the next album we still had it kicking around and we said "let's try this song" and I remember he was playing all this great stuff on it, and we used to do it live in the 80s.
Jason: Oh did you? it's just so Simple Minds
Brian: Yeah, well the way I'm singing on it
Jason: Yeah it's great; I love it with a serious passion!
Brian: I loved Jim Kerr
Jason: Oh he's great! And they're touring soon
Brian: Really? Bullshit! I don't even know what's going on. I spend too much time in the studio! Is the line up still the same?
Jason: Unfortunately no!
Brian: Ahh, that's what people must say about us when they come and see us going oh. But I hate that.
Jason: Well here I go again, I was the same when Pseudo started doing gigs again and I wanted Anthony on drums. But I have to say the drummer you have is so cool!
Brian: Darren's great. He's a real 80s guy too, we all grew up together.
Jason: Was he is Roxus?
Jason: Because I remember going to Countdown Revolution in 1989, and when I saw him perform with you guys I was like "I'm sure he was in Roxus".
Brian: You've got to remember he grew up in awe of Pseudo Echo. We grew up in the same neighbourhood and went to the same school and he was 4 years younger so he used to really idolize us and knew all of our stuff so that's how I came to produce his band Chocolate Starfish.
Jason: And back to the demos... "Marching Feet" Such a damn good song!
Brian: That's a real early one. That was in the set list when we used to play in '82 / '83.
Jason: Do you have any video footage of you guys in the very early days that you just mentioned when you had the bleached hair?
Brian: Somebody would have but I don't know who. I've got some great photo's that are out there.
Jason: And they are from before Anthony joined when it was just the three of you.
Brian: Yeah. Before we had any drummer.
Jason: Did you get a drummer because the drum machine kept breaking down.
Brian: It was just stagnant, it was really sterile. It was terrible and it was really annoying, you know.
Jason: In the early days, were the people that went to your gigs basically New Romantics and Goths?
Brian: Total, white face crowd
Jason: Yep, white face crowd. How brilliant!
Brian: Oh totally, we used to love it. How it all changed, it's sad isn't it. Because you know I love it, I still love that scene.
Jason: Believe me I understand, I love it too. But you know that happened with a lot of bands. Even with bands like Duran Duran, by the time 7 And the Ragged Tiger came out the audience changed and it became so much more commercial.
Brian: I hated The Wild Boys.
Jason: Yes, me too. How are you with videos and things like that?
Brian: Yeah videos are okay. Videos are one thing but I hate talking on TV. Like when we did that "Where Are They Now" and they came over.
Jason: I noticed, you looked like you were over it.
Brian: But you know when you are on stage your doing your thing. That's the thing you know your pretty good at and when you're doing a video clip it's the same thing again. Like I always have a golden rule for video clips and I've broken it myself and at times contradicted it, but with bands and video clips is to never act unless you're an actor. You know how they make bands act
Jason: Yeah, you guys did it in "Dancing until Midnight"
Brian: Yeah, I was alright in that I suppose, but as a rule just don't act.
Interview conducted by Jason Grech, Copyright © 2006 www.countdownmemories.com